Recognize the Signs of Elder Abuse – Guest Post by Dave Singleton

elder abuse signsIt’s as growing and widespread a problem as it is under-reported and complicated. I’m speaking about elder abuse, which is an epidemic in our country.

Why is it under-reported?

Many cases involve family or elders in a close relationship with victim, which minimizes the victim’s interest in reporting abuse, as well as people without capacity might not even know that a son or daughter is obtaining property or money without their knowledge.”

In some cases it’s harder to recover from emotional betrayal than it is to rebound from a physical injury.  That’s all the more reason for busy caregivers to spot and stop potential abuse. Consider these six smart ways to protect your older loved ones:

1. Keep an Eye Peeled for Signs

Elder abuse is not always easy to spot. Some signs are obvious; others aren’t. Check the person physically for bruises and marks. Monitor finances, property, and accounts if you suspect money, real estate, and valuables are being taken. Look for emotional changes.

2. Monitor the Situation from up Close

Keep an eye on both the mental and physical health of your loved one in person and then get second or third opinions if you need more perspective. If you’re managing care from far away, you need to have someone who’s a trusted regular visitor.

3. Focus on Covert as Well as Overt Abuse

Sometimes, abuse can be subtle. For example, withholding is abuse, as when someone intentionally withholds or delays providing needed medication, or delays changing soiled clothes.

4. Don’t Allow Your Loved One to Be Isolated

According to Joy Solomon, director and managing attorney for the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention in New York, “Isolation is the engine that keeps abuse going”.  Abusers are predatory in that they typically like to separate victims from others in order to gain control and prevent transparency.

What for signs of a stranger, friend, or even family member showing unusual or extreme interest in your loved one?

5. If Your Loved One Can’t Vocalize Abuse, Get Evidence

What can you do when your loved ones suffer yet are unable to express it? “For a person who lacks capacity to indicate abuse has occurred, get evidence. Oversee financial accounts or check for bruises,” says Solomon. “Abuse does occur in facilities, but for the most part, they are regulated. In any institutional setting, however, you need to be an advocate, communicating regularly with staff and staying vigilant so you can ensure they’re being cared for properly. In situations where the victim is being cared for at home (an increasing trend), it’s a private, unregulated space. Make sure you use licensed caregiving agencies.”

6. Act as Soon As You Suspect Abuse

Experts recommend calling 911 immediately if you believe an elderly friend, relative, or neighbor is in immediate, life-threatening danger. To find the right help-line, hotline, or elder abuse resources in your area, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).

About the Author

Davesummer2006-Elder abuse blogDave Singleton is an award-winning writer and author. is the leading online destination for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. If you need help caring for loved ones in your home, read reviews in’s In-Home Care Directory (

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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5 Responses to Recognize the Signs of Elder Abuse – Guest Post by Dave Singleton

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  2. p90x transformation women says:

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment
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  3. George says:

    I spent 3 years trying to convince my family that my parents were victims of elder abuse (neglect, emotional abuse, isolation and financial exploitation) by another family member. I noticed the signs before others, and what was noticed (isolation and financial exploitation) was either considered my parents’ wishes (out of fear from my point of view) or exploitation from another source rather than from within the home. When it finally became very clear and there was no denying it, we reported it to Adult Protective Services as the law tells us to do. Since there was no physical violence taking place, the case has not been taken seriously. Fortunately, we were able to get more family members behind us and able to convince my parents to allow us to remove them from the situation. Within days of being removed from the situation,my father’s health improved which gave my mother strength to stay away from the abuse. So, when I see posters telling us to report it, I get frustrated. Yes, reporting is a necessary step, but don’t expect it to solve the problem. Don’t report, then walk away. Most likely, especially in the case of the abuse coming from a family member – it will be up to you to keep trying until you find an answer. My parents’ mixed emotions between the love of their child and grandchild and fear of them at the same time made it especially difficult. Don’t give up. They protected you when you were a child and are depending on you to do the same for them, even if they don’t verbalize this.


    • Sue Salach says:

      I’m so sorry for what you and your family went through. Thank you for sharing your story and for all you did to take care of your parents and keep them safe.


  4. Jerold Poole says:

    Elder neglect, mistreatment, and abuse isn’t always easy to spot. Some signs are obvious, some not so much. The New York City Elder Abuse Center defines elder abuse as an act that causes harm or distress to an individual 60 years or older. It happens most often in relationships based on trust. And it can be intentional or unintentional. Elders with cognitive impairment are particularly vulnerable, both because dementia behaviors can be extremely frustrating to caregivers, and because elders with dementia can lose the ability to recognize abuse and defend themselves.


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